Kathleen Berry -v- City West Housing Trust

Article

19 April, 2012

District Judge Neaves - 8 March 2012

Forbes successfully defended City West Housing Trust at a trial at Manchester County Court in a claim for damages being brought as a result of flooding of the property of one of their tenants caused by the ingress of water from the property next door.

The Claimant alleged that the Defendant was guilty in nuisance and/or had been negligent by responding too slowly to the leak from the neighbouring vacant property.

There were three key issues for the court to determine:

  • Firstly, whether the leak from the adjoining property should have been prevented altogether, by draining it prior to the leak occurring.
  • Secondly, whether, once the leak was reported to the Defendant, the Defendant dealt with it within a reasonable period of time.
  • Finally, if there was delay, whether it made the situation worse, insofar as it exacerbated the damage to the Claimant's belongings.

The Court held that over the Christmas period, during a cold snap when resources were stretched, it was perfectly reasonable for the Defendant to identify the leak and rectify it within 24 hours, which is what the Defendant had done.

Further still, the court was satisfied that the damage to the Claimant's carpets was essentially the same after 24 hours as it was after four hours, and so any delay would have been negligible to the damage suffered.

On the issue of whether the leak should have been prevented in the first place, it was held that while the adjoining property was vacant, insofar as the tenant was no longer in occupation, the tenancy was still live. That was to say, for the Defendant to have entered the property of its own volition and drain the water system would have been a breach of that tenant's right to quiet enjoyment. There was, therefore, no obligation on the Defendant to drain the property; and it could not be held liable for not doing so.

The Claimant's claim was dismissed in full.

Forbes Comment

The court agreed wholeheartedly with the Defendant's position on the reasonableness of its response and appreciated the context in which events occurred. The decision should provide encouragement to Defendants who employ reasonable systems of logging complaints and actioning repairs.

For further information please contact Andrew Ellis, Partner - Manchester office on 0161 918 0000 or email Andrew Ellis

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